American Antiquities (1834) Josiah Priest
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Josiah Priest was born in Unadilla, New York. He grew up during a time when the United States was first establishing itself as a nation. Little specific is known about his schooling, but it is assumed that he received a basic primary and secondary education. At the age of 24 he married Eliza Perry from Lansingburgh, New York. After a brief period in Lansingburgh, they migrated to Albany, New York around the year 1819. While there, Priest was first employed as a coach "trimmer" or upholsterer, He later worked in leather, mainly fashioning saddles and harnesses. He and Eliza conceived and raised a total of ten children. . He was reportedly well-liked by the churchgoers for his dramatic performance during the sermons, several of which were published. Priest's fundamentalist view of Christianity and his faith in Biblical literalism are evident throughout his work. Josiah Priest knew Oliver Cowdery, who later assisted Joseph Smith, Jr. in the production of the Book of Mormon.
Priest decided to give up his profession as a leather worker and become a writer. His first book, in a genre now identified as cryptozoology was The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed, compiled from Authentic Sources, Both Ancient and Modern, Giving an Account of Various and Strange Phenomena Existing in Nature, of Travels, Adventures, Singular Providences, &c. (1826). His other major publications were American Antiquities and Discoveries of the West (1833) and Slavery, As It Relates to the Negro (1843), each of which was published in multiple editions.
American Antiquities (1833)
This 400-page publication centered around Priest's own study of the Bible and antiquarian journals, supplemented by information from his travels. After visiting earthworks in Ohio and New York, Priest concluded that these mounds could be traced back to a lost race that had inhabited America even before the Native Americans. This idea is now referred to as the "mound builder myth" and still has supporters in society today. The book grew in popularity because of Priest's views on Native Americans. Priest speculated that the original dwellers could be the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. The reasoning Priest gives for his conclusion that there was an even earlier settler than the Native Americans relies upon his own Biblical interpretation of the flood story. According to Josiah, after the great flood disappeared, Noah and his ark landed on America. While surveying the land, Noah also discovered mounds that had been constructed before the waters rose up. Upon seeing this, Noah questioned where these agricultural phenomena came from. "Surveying the various themes of mound builder origins, he could not decide whether the mounds were the work of Polynesians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Israelites, Scandinavians, Welsh, Scotts, or Chinese, although he felt certain the Indians had not built them."
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